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Miguel Faustmann |

Arts and Culture

Miguel Faustmann

- George T. Ramos -
This man has suffered the splendid pain of a magnificent king, whose beloved wife and greatest friend became gloriously unholy lovers. Then again, he has also cavorted in the wretched sewers of a battle-torn Paris, stealing from corpses of the brave dead. He has tragically explored the depths of a noble and demented spirit, wandering heartless Spanish plains and fantastically crusading against a wickedly real windmill. But of course, who can forget when this man – wearing his Roman toga and icy ideals with infectious grace – struggled through a courageous evil to kill a dear friend and a great man. He has also been a two-timing taxi driver.

Besides these characters – Camelot’s King Arthur, Les Miserables’ Monsieur Thernadier, Man of La Mancha’s Don Quixote and Julius Caesar’s Brutus – this man has, onstage, lived the lives of a pirate king, a loving father, a homicidal judge, a principled prince of the Church, a pitiless warden, an ambitious colonel, a hopeless alcoholic, a ruthless merchant and countless more.

This man is Repertory Philippines’ venerable veteran actor Miguel Faustmann. Also an accomplished director and set designer, Faustmann has captivated audiences with delightful theater at Rep for nearly three decades. From romantic leads to dreaded villains to hilarious caricatures, this artist-chameleon plays each role so differently from each other that every new role becomes a fresh, new and exciting experience to watch. Often, he is barely recognizable and his real personality – his gentleness, generosity and wackiness – becomes "subsumed in the role," in the words of Rep artistic director Zeneida Amador.

Here’s how this maestro of metamorphosis charms us with his magic, straight from horse’s mouth:

Philippine STAR: How are you able to play your roles so differently from each other?

Miguel Faustmann: By instinct. I also love watching people. I observe their different traits, mannerisms and quirks. I observe people all the time, like when I’m on the street or in a cab. I look and see how they walk or how they stand, things like that – little things, details. For example, different types of people have different ways of walking – some drag their feet, some walk with a hippiti-hop, some stomp their feet, some hurry, some take their sweet time. I like watching old men, especially – the way they move their mouths, the way they twitch. All this goes into my memory bank, so I can use them in the roles I play.

How do you get to the inner life, the soul of a role?

It’s also by gut feel. I ask myself how I would react if I were in the character’s situation. Every actor, every human being has all kinds of emotions, goodness, evil, kindness, generosity, joy. Some have more than others. You just have to dig into your own resources and apply it to the role. You have to be believable, convincing. It’s also important to sympathize with the person I’m playing, especially when he’s totally not me. I try to psychoanalyze his character – it’s like being a psychiatrist. And, as much as possible, I always try to be different. That’s one of the reasons there’s a director. He is there to remind you of that. In the beginning, it was difficult really getting into the spirit of the character because of barriers I had to show emotion – which is normal – but I got hell from Bibot [director Zeneida Amador] for it and that took care of those walls.

What is the process you follow in creating a character? For example, in your work as Dr. Julian Winston in Rep’s new, current comedy Cactus Flower?

It’s all in the script and the director’s vision. Using my imagination, I am just true to the lines, the scene and the directions as I read, memorize and rehearse and it’s all there. How the guy thinks, feels, how he is, how he makes papel are all in the lines. Take Dr. Winston, for example. He’s a typical guy, a bolero and a playboy. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. All that is in the lines, I just draw it out. Another example. The notes of a character’s song – the music alone gives you the appropriate feeling. Then, when I put on my costume and play in the set, it becomes more real to me and this helps me flesh out the character even more. It’s all a matter of getting truly involved with the story and situation and it just comes.

Have you ever been so overly affected by a role that you lost yourself in it?

There was this play Shadow Box, where I played an interviewer of terminally-ill patients in a resort. It was so depressing that I would stay depressed for days after we performed. In general, when you get so totally involved in a scene, you have to be careful so you don’t forget your lines or the lyrics. Sometimes, I would get so tied up in the emotion of the moment that I couldn’t sing. But the feeling of total involvement in the drama of it is just wonderful.

Of all the roles you’ve played, what is your favorite?

I really enjoyed them all. When you give your whole heart to a character, he becomes a part of you. But, if I were to choose, my dream role is Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. I saw it when I was a kid and it inspired me. Don Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist, and he has a big heart. It’s so sad – even now it almost makes me cry. I also loved playing the Boris Karloff role in Arsenic and Old Lace. It’s great to play villains. You get the license to be bad! A role leaves you with a permanent, little scar, a mark in your heart – and you will always have a soft spot for it. It’s so nice that in one life, I can lead so many lives."
* * *
Miguel Faustmann generates another electrifying transformation as the deliciously deceitful Dr. Julian Winston in Rep’s new high-voltage comedy Cactus Flower at the William J. Shaw Theater, fifth level of the Shangri-La Plaza, until Sept. 23, and at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with 3:30 p.m. matinees every Saturday and Sunday.

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